Sense of the University of Nevada, Reno Faculty Senate Regarding Health Care Policy

March 5, 2009


On January 20, 2009, the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, passed a “Sense of the Senate” resolution on health care benefits. Soon thereafter the NSHE System Administration Faculty Senate also proposed a Resolution on Health Care Benefits. These resolutions called upon the Legislature to reject the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission recommendations, and pointed out a number of possible negative consequences of these proposals. The UNLV Faculty Senate argued that some of these consequences would also result from the proposals of the Public Employee Benefit Plan (PEBP) Board proposals, even though these latter proposals were much more deliberate in approach and reasonable in scope.

The UNR Faculty Senate recognizes that current and past employees entered into an employment agreement with NSHE with a reasonable understanding that the extant health care plan was a fair representation of what could be expected now and into retirement. Given that a significant change in one’s health cannot reasonably be budgeted, predictable health benefits are fundamentally important to someone making an employment decision.


In light of the emerging national conversation about health care funding, at this time the UNR Faculty Senate opposes any changes in employee health care plans in response to a short-run revenue shortfall. The rising cost of health care, the past promises of the state to its employees, and the new Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules requiring these obligations to be made explicit are problems shared by all states. A nationwide dialogue needs to take place in which Nevada participates, but unilateral and precipitous action in the absence of a nationwide strategy will unfairly shift risk towards those unprepared to bear it, leave retirees without alternatives, and impair our ability to retain our best faculty, professionals and staff and compromise our ability to recruit the best new employees to replace those who retire.

Related Information:
The Sage Commission recommendations can be found at the link below:
The PEBP Board recommendations can be found at the link below:

Measuring Success and Appropriations slides

February 20, 2009



The slides presented by Milton Glick at the February Faculty Senate Meeting can be accessed via the link above.

Economic Impact of the Proposed $73 million cut in UNR’s budget (a study by E. Fadali & M. Kilkenny, UCED)

February 17, 2009

By far the biggest reason citizens of all 50 states support their public universities is because university educated young people become inventors, skilled professionals, artists, social scientists, ethical businesspeople, and so on, making our society great.

But when budgets are tight, it’s reasonable to ask how taxpayer support for a university compares on a purely economic basis with tax relief, for example. Nevada taxpayers spent approximately $209 million dollars on the University of Nevada, Reno last year. That state allocation, plus student tuition, fees, and payments for research conducted by the faculty made up a budget of $511 million. Two‐thirds of that budget was spent on wages and salaries, and UNR employed about 4,600 people in Washoe County. UNR is the second largest employer in the county after the Washoe County School District.

Economists at the Center for Economic Development (UCED) calculated the effect on the economy of Nevada if the budget of the University of Nevada, Reno were to be cut by the proposed $73 million in state support. As we know, one person’s spending is another person’s income. The person who earned that income spends some, too, supporting the income of yet another person, and so on. The ‘circular flow’ of spending, income, spending, income, and so on is formalized mathematically by what is called an “input‐output” model. Here is what the mathematical model shows:

A cut of $73 million in state funding for the University of Nevada Reno, coupled with a proportional reduction in the faculty’s ability to bring in externally funded research contracts, amounts to a $99 million reduction in state value added (or state “GDP”) and 1,288 fewer jobs.

Alternatively, if Nevada taxpayers were to raise the $73 million, and we all have less to spend on goods and services, this would also lead to lower economic activity. $73 million in taxes paid (ultimately) by households amounts to $39 million less value added (state GDP) and 534 fewer jobs.

The net effect of putting the $73 million into UNR rather than spending it as usual on goods and services is $60 million more state GDP and 574 more jobs.

Why does the state get more jobs and income when it finances its universities than it does the other way? One, because university faculty bring even more money into the state by doing research and other projects. Without state support, however, faculty cannot accept ‘matching grant’ contracts, for example. Two, a much larger proportion of UNR’s revenues goes directly to Nevada employees. Nothing goes to dividends, profits, royalties or rents to out‐of‐state stockholders, CEOs, or proprietors.

In contrast, a big part of what is spent on a new car or new flat‐screen TV goes out‐of‐state to the factory and company that made it. Some of the retail dollar also goes to pay rents, profits, anddividends, also sometimes out‐of‐state. A much smaller portion of a retail dollar goes to salaries for local employees. A much larger portion of a dollar spent on UNR goes directly into Nevada household income. Spending on UNR keeps much more money ‘coming around and going around’ in our local economy.

My reply to the Governor’s podcast

February 12, 2009

At President Glick’s town hall meeting today, somebody asked him for a comment on the Governor’s podcast defending his higher education budget. As it so happens, last night I e-mailed a reply, and it came back with an error message. This morning I sent the reply to Josh Hicks, his chief of staff. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Hicks,

I just read the text of the Governor’s podcast, and tried to reply to the address in his message, YOUR-OPINION-COUNTS@GOV.NV.GOV. It came back with a “No such user” message, so I hope my opinion can still count.

I am afraid that I must say the podcast was misleading. The Governor said that “Nevada spends more general fund tax dollars on higher education than most other states,” but this is not actually true.

A poor man spends a bigger portion of his income on food, but that does not mean that he eats more than others. Nevada’s higher education system gets a larger portion of its budget from the state, but that does not mean it spends more to educate its students. As a share of state GDP, Nevada has the smallest general fund in the country. Nevada is also 50th in the country in higher education spending as a share of state income, 50th in the country in the number of higher education employees as a share of population, at the bottom in the number of students who attend college, and below the national average in higher education spending per student, even though our cost of living is relatively high and smaller states typically spend more per student than big states.

In addition, most states also have some local government support of higher education, for community colleges. Nevada does not.

The Governor said that higher education has the ability to raise its own revenue, but this is misleading as well. It is true that our tuition is relatively low, and this has been a long-standing policy of the state as it tries to move up from the bottom in the number of students who attend college. The Regents can raise tuition, but if we tripled it next year we would not come close to filling the gap, as we would push out many of our students. Other revenues – like dormitory fees, tickets to sporting events, et cetera – go to pay expenses associated with those revenues, and do not generate substantial residuals. Research grants go to fund research expenses, and if we tried to spend those funds on instructional costs somebody would have to go to jail. Your administration’s budget would not increase those other revenues, but instead would decrease them. It will cost us our most productive researchers who bring in the most outside funding, it would scare away potential donors, and it will encourage our best students to go elsewhere.

It is a bit like trying to get in shape and lose weight by having your legs amputated.

The Governor said that he is proposing only a 36% cut, not a 50% cut, but this is also somewhat misleading. Yes, there is a 36% cut in the total NSHE general fund budget, but some programs within NSHE are left relatively untouched. Athletics, for example, did not have its budget changed much at all. But the cuts your administration proposed for the main campuses of UNR and UNLV are much, much larger than the average for the system as a whole. Relative to our total state GDP, the cuts are tiny – roughly a quarter of one percent – but relative to the total amount the university has to spend on instruction, the cuts are simply devastating.

To survive and prosper in a knowledge economy, Nevada must better educate its citizens. Regardless of his political disagreements with our Chancellor, the Governor must see that a good university system is crucial for our future.


Elliott Parker
Professor of Economics
University of Nevada, Reno

The Governor Strikes Back

January 20, 2009

Since last summer the governor has told the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE, that includes UNR) to plan for a budget reduction. Some of that reduction has taken place, and we have lost valuable colleagues, student and faculty services and funding support. Since the beginning of the budget discussions the UNR administration has never known the exact or even approximate amount of budget cut for which to plan. The chancellor has exerted control over the message from NSHE to the governor, legislators, the public and, to some degree, even within the campuses themselves. In spite of that, President Glick has tried to keep the campus informed with his town hall meetings. However, even at those meetings he could not provide much detail because the magnitude of cuts was still unknown. It wasn’t until a special December Board of Regents meeting a budget reflecting a 14% reduction went from the Board to the Governor. The Board would not send budgets reflecting even deeper cuts as the governor requested because the methodology used to plan larger cuts would have to be different from that used to plan a 14% cut. Our campus has been working towards that general figure since last summer, but still that figure was a guess.

Well, the governor’s state of the state budget message Thursday night removed the ambiguity about the magnitude of the cuts. Nearly 75% of the state shortfall has been targeted to Nevada higher education. (See for some speculation about the reasons for specific targeting of higher education.) The budget details are contained in about 3,000 pages of budget information, but the bottom line is that UNR as a whole is targeted for a 36% budget cut. The governor’s budget targets for the University itself (not counting the medical school, athletics, etc.) approaches 50%. While I personally believe the legislature will not pass a budget that severe, the cut will be somewhere between 14% to 36%. I’d like to be wrong about this, but it will take a creative legislative plan to addresses the revenue shortfall inflicted on higher education.

Where Are We Now? 

There is an upcoming pre-legislative hearing where we may get an indication of how disposed the legislature is to redress this effort to dismantle higher education. There is also a Board of Regents meeting February 5th -6th where a Board with three new members will try to delineate a strategy for carrying our case to the legislature and probably start discussing contingency plans. On February 12th, President Glick will host a Town Hall where all are invited to provide input and ask questions. I will announce coffee meetings open for interested faculty to talk directly with me informally and directly. New information and rumors will be unfolding at an ever accelerating pace as the legislative session moves forward. If you have not been reading the chancellors weekly missives (you are the only person in Nevada spared), you know that he states that 54 of the 63 members of the legislature have indicated some level of support for NSHE and higher education. It remains to be seen as to whether these statements will translate into any kind of meaningful action.

It is simply impossible to be anything but outraged by the governor’s disregard for the NSHE, the mission, the faculty, the students, and economic contribution the university makes to the state. The tone of the conversation has changed. This budget is both a blow to the health of our university and an insult to the hard work of all the members of our university community. The decision to gut NSHE while touting economic diversification is absurd. To ignore the economic contribution of the university is an astounding oversight. To advocate that a tuition increase can address the problem requires that one thinks students can’t multiply. If we passed this shortfall onto students, tuition would increase from about $4,000 per year to about $13,000 in the fall. Arguments that there is no need for a comprehensive university implies Nevada has no role in the generation of knowledge, no shortage of the sophisticated workforce new energy technologies require and no shortage of synergies between innovation and industry – all incredibly uninformed positions.

Every individual faculty member has the right to make whatever political statements he or she wishes. I am sure many of you are intending to enter into the public political discussion. There will be coordinated efforts by various parts of the university community to speak out to legislators and communicate a coherent message about Nevada higher education. There will be some coordinated activities on campus and in Carson City. I think one thing that might be particularly effective is for those of you who know legislators to call them and respectfully make whatever argument you believe will be most effective. Direct contact can be extremely useful and is the least easy feedback to ignore. Phone calls are meaningful as well. It is the legislators who will have to propose an alternative budget and vote in large enough numbers to override the likely governor’s veto. If you have any contacts or have influence yourself, now is the time to use it.

In my next blog I will describe the importance of participating in campus planning for how to allocate our resources so that we can make the best decisions possible about how to deal with whatever cuts eventually do emerge. In the meantime, this message is primarily to tell you that if you want to share any strategies or ask questions, the senate office is at your disposal. I think coordinated activity is likely to be better than uncoordinated effort, but each of you must decide how you want to represent our university’s interests.

Bill Follette
Chair, Faculty Senate

How Big is Higher Education?

January 17, 2009

In his budget proposal, Governor Gibbons claimed that Nevada pays a relatively high share of its General Fund expenditures on higher education, and so he proposes balancing the state’s revenue shortfall by cutting higher education spending by more than a third. The proposal cuts UNR’s instructional budget by half, and UNLV’s by more than that. Oddly enough, the Governor proposes hardly any cut for our athletics budgets, so our students will have football games to attend but no professors to take classes from.

One of my own professors once handed me a book called “How to Lie with Statistics.” The point of the book, of course, was to teach us NOT to do that, and how to recognize when it is being done by others. One of the lessons I remember was that if somebody wants to make a number look relatively big, they will divide it by a number that is relatively small. So when I heard the Governor’s statistic, I was skeptical.

First, how much are we talking about? During the last budget go-round, General Fund expenditures were roughly $3.3 billion per year, which sounds like a lot until you learn that the Gross State Product of Nevada was $130 billion dollars. State support of higher education totaled about $830 million, about 0.65% of state output. For those who claim higher education spending is out of control, two decades ago this share was 0.62%. Governor Gibbons now proposes a cut of 36% to this amount.

That is, to avoid having to come up with a tax equal to a fourth of a penny on each dollar we earn, Governor Gibbons is willing to destroy Nevada’s system of higher education.

And don’t kid yourself, because that is what this will do. Even if the proposal is dead on arrival in the Legislature, as I expect it will be, and even if he only made the proposal to poke a stick in Chancellor Rogers’ eye, Governor Gibbons has damaged us. Many of our faculty are distraught by this attack. We compete on national markets, and those faculty best able to find jobs elsewhere – our most nationally recognized scholars – will be among the first ones who leave. We have also been trying to keep our best students in Nevada, but now those who have been accepted at out-of-state schools will think twice before staying here, and when they leave, they won’t come back.

So what about the Governor’s preferred statistic? I already knew that Nevada has the smallest number of state employees as a share of state population, and the smallest share of state expenditures as a share of state output. But when I looked it up, I also found – for the most recent year that comparable data was available – that Nevada’s General Fund as a share of the state economy totaled only half of the national average, and was the lowest of the 50 states. Divide any number by something that small, and it will somehow appear bigger.

Let’s put the size of higher education in more meaningful proportions. As a share of our economy, our total expenditures on higher education are 50th in the nation. Because our net tuition revenue is relatively low (though California’s is lower), we are not actually the lowest in educational appropriations from the state, but these appropriations are still a fifth less than the national average. Relative to population, we are also 50th in the number of employees in higher education, and a third fewer Nevadans are enrolled in higher education than in the rest of the country. Take more than another third from that, as our Governor proposes, and we become a third world country. If you care about Nevada’s future, it is time to put your foot down and say, “enough!”

Elliott Parker, Chair-Elect

More posts on the budget issues

January 15, 2009

Regent Cobb said to us on his last visit that we should get more involved in trying to get our story out. I have been doing this the last month or so, and thought senators might want to know what I’m saying on their behalf.

The memo I wrote to Milt on 12-1 got sent around the state by the Chancellor. I wrote an Op-ed column in the Reno Gazette Journal, titled
Small government can hurt growth

and another in the Las Vegas Sun, Does our state government have a spending problem?

Former Senator Bob Beers wrote a “rebuttal” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal the following week:

And I wrote a reply in the Sun:
How much more state government can be cut?

I also wrote another memo to Milt on Jan. 1 regarding a look at state budgets over the last couple of decades, and another today to answer a number of people who said I should also offer solutions. Both are on my website, at, but in the latter memo I made clear I was NOT speaking as chair-elect, since some of my suggestions were likely not to be shared by others, including Bill — he told me so himself.

Elliott Parker, Chair-Elect

Does Nevada Have a Spending Problem?

December 4, 2008

Click link below to access a memo written by Dr. Elliott Parker to Presient Milton Glick.


The Chair’s Comments at Town Hall Meeting

July 7, 2008
  • July 2, 2008

    William C. Follette, Chair, Faculty Senate 2008-2009

    I appreciate the remarks made by President Glick. Before I proceed I want to express my disappointment in political process that has led to this point where we are asked to make decisions that feel more like Sophie’s choice than merely managing a budgetary shortfall. I have serious concerns about the well being of those already affected and those who will be, whether they are administrative or academic faculty, staff or students. At the same time I want to express my gratitude for the collaborative approach taken by President Glick and Provost Johnson.

    Let me briefly describe where I think we are in the process of considering additional reductions that will in all likelihood affect statewide and academic programs at our university. First, I believe no tenured faculty will face terminations now or in the future. I also believe that non-tenured, tenure track faculty who are making good progress by all traditional standards have reason to feel relatively secure. That is not because position reductions are not permissible under System code and university bylaws, but because I believe we can reach the necessary goals without resorting to such measures if we approach the problems with creativity and dedication. I also believe that the abrupt actions that have affected primarily administrative faculty will , if necessary, be conducted in a more consultative manner. Be aware that with the economic future so uncertain, I could be incorrect in these assessments.

    Does that mean that business will be conducted as usual? The answer is clearly, no. There are likely to be significant changes in how some of us are asked to address the mission of the university, and not all of those changes will be to our liking. Some of us will prefer to explore buy-out options or look elsewhere for our futures. You can and should consider what is best for you and your families.

    What does the immediate future hold? I am certain that the teaching load policy adopted by the Board of Regents as implemented by the Faculty Senate in 2005 will be scrutinized closely. That policy is available on the Faculty Senate Homepage and the Faculty Senate Blog. The basic policy is a 3+3 teaching load with reductions allowed for graduate training and other extenuating circumstances. If the teaching mission of the university is to be fulfilled, and it will be, it will entail some of us teaching classes formerly offered by LOAs or lecturers. Some of us will see specialty programs dear to us disappear as our efforts are redistributed to meet the essential institutional needs fundamental to the academic success of our student body.

    How will curricular decisions be made? Here is where we are indeed fortunate to be at UNR in these unfortunate times. The code of the Nevada System of Higher Education and the University Bylaws provide the rough outlines of a procedure for those decisions to be shared by the upper administration and the faculty. Unlike the indefensibly late notice given to the university that necessitated July 1 action for notices of nonrenewal, the curricular review process has time to be designed and refined with faculty input.

    The code and bylaws give approximations to procedures. In conversations with President Glick and Provost Johnson, I believe that their value is that the academic programs, that is the curriculum, belong to the faculty and Provost. It is up to us to decide how to address the a budget that has only 86% of our expected base in a way that attracts, retains, and graduates students with high value degrees while we continue in the creative and research activities that characterize excellent universities. We will not be the same university while sustaining these cuts. We can be a destination university that sustains excellence in those areas we define as central to our mission.

    So that there is sufficient time for questions, I will not elaborate the different ways in which program reviews could occur. I will just say that by code and bylaws as well as the preference of the president and provost, this will be a collaborative process that closely involves faculty at the program level and then likely a committee made up of equal numbers of faculty and administrators who will make recommendations to the president. Discussions about the process are under way. I fully expect this process to begin intensively as soon as faculty are back on campus and decisions will be made not later than December 1. Everyone wants to know their future as soon as possible. Many programs and departments will know much earlier that disruptions will be minimal.

    At some point programs at the grassroots level will have to evaluate how they meet whatever criteria are eventually defined as appropriate. Programs will do one of several things. A program could conclude its efforts could be redirected for a greater good. That would not mean faculty agreeing to fire themselves, but rather propose how to best distribute their efforts. It could also ask “what mortal dares questions our greatness?” Or it could say – here is our case for sustaining as we are, realigning ourselves to be more effective given the evaluation criteria, or even growing.

    I want you to consider two scenarios. The first is one where we rise to the occasion and do the best we humanly can to optimize the outcome for our colleagues, institution, its mission, and its students. The second is that we reject any approach to this self-assessment and then watch as the Board of Regents and the legislature plot our future. I am quite certain I know which of those options I prefer.

    We are human, and to some extent what is expected of us is akin to asking us what appendage would we like sacrifice to save the body. No option looks good. Some of us will be unable to make any decision, and we then risk even more dire consequences. This is not even a zero sum game. It is a circumstance where we minimize overall harm and search for ways to enhance programs that will capture the attention and admiration of our community, state, and colleagues around the world. We are not alone in this fiscal dilemma. California, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other states also face severe economic crises.

    During this curricular review, I want to remind you that the Faculty Senate Office is at your service to give you guidance on your rights. That said, I believe that we can make collaborative decisions in this process that minimize damage to individuals and the institution. We could not ask for a more supportive or collaborative administration during these difficult times. That does not mean there won’t be disagreements. There are unpleasant decisions to be made. It does mean we can make it through these times by providing the vision and collaboration lacking outside the walls of our university.

    I look forward to your input in elaborating the process. Thank you for your grace in this time of duress and your empathy for those of us who have been and will be impacted by these impending changes.

  • Chair’s Letter to the Faculty

    June 25, 2008

    We have known for some time that the escalating budget crisis in the state would fundamentally alter our university unless the state leadership developed a strategy to adequately fund higher education. Last week President Glick held a well-attended town hall meeting where he said that earlier cuts exhausted our ability to absorb any additional shortfalls without affecting people, services, and programs. At that time he couldn’t be specific about what cuts would occur because the state budget analysis was not done and the legislative special session had not met. Last Friday preliminary budget projections were reported and they were grim. The special session still has not convened, but time has run out and additional required cuts have to be implemented because the Board of Regents policy requires up to a one year notice for faculty whose positions are being eliminated.I have waited to send this message to you until colleagues affected by the budget cuts have been notified. Earlier today these notifications were made as President Glick said in today’s letter to you, the entire faculty. As chair of the Faculty Senate I participated in many of the meetings that addressed how to meet the budget shortfall. The senate’s role was to suggest the principles it thought should direct these decisions. Those principles were adopted by the administration and were the yardstick by which decisions were made. My role in these conversations was to be available to express the faculty’s position where I thought I knew it and to observe the process so that I could assess its apparent fairness.

    As of today, our campus is different. People we know have been informed they will be losing their jobs. Some are relatively new to campus and others have been here for many years and are well-known to the campus community. The decisions were done to do as little harm to peoples’ lives and the university’s mission as possible. There were sensitivities to not filling vacant positions where that solution was available. Retirement incentives are being developed. Open academic faculty lines are, from my perspective, gone. Strategic new hires will be considered consistent with the principles that guided how to address the shortfall.

    I want to comment on some of the realities I observed. First, anyone in the community who glibly says that when budgets need to be reduced, you just let people go are either cut from a different cloth or have never had to look a dedicated employee in the eye and say that he or she will no longer have a job at a place the person loved working. As one who attended these meetings and knows our administration, I can attest to the anguish deans, provosts, vice presidents, and the president experienced when abstract conversations finally turned to the names of real people or to functions of the university that will no longer be served because they are not as central to the mission as others are. This will be little comfort to those who are losing their jobs, but I believe the campus and state should know that what has been done today has taken a significant personal toll on many members of our campus in addition to those whose positions are being eliminated. I am saddened by these events and suffering of people we all know.Second, the process represented another example of the reality of shared governance that exists on this campus. The president and each member of the administration at some point actively sought my opinion on a wide variety of issues. These were delicate but frank conversations where agreement and disagreement were met with mutual openness and respect. I have been in contact with senate chairs from all the institutions in the state, and no one has described a process that was as inclusive of faculty input as ours has been.However, there are still economic challenges we face. Today’s reductions and the elimination of open faculty positions are unlikely to meet projected state revenue shortfalls. It may be that elective retirements, legislative or executive action or a change in the economic health of the state may address our budgetary needs. Those are unknowns at this point.

    In his letter earlier today President Glick said he will be seeking discussions with the campus community about how to address other reactions the university might take to this crisis. It is possible that academic units or individual faculty will be affected by future cuts. Everyone is open to consider any thoughtful options for addressing the shortfall in ways that spare human capital. This is an opportunity to think creatively about how we might reorganize our institution to create innovative, efficient structures that promote our mission. Any discussion of the curriculum demands faculty input and President Glick and our new Provost, Marc Johnson would not have it any other way. Neither would the faculty senate. It is quite possible we will find new ways to conduct the business of the university. If procedures and structural impediments interfere with creativity and innovation, then I believe those practices should be modified or eliminated. If any aspect of the curriculum needs to be revisited, then it should be. If strong departments or programs can be enhanced with new collaborations, then let us make it happen. If you have ideas, I will do all I can to make sure you have a forum at which you can share them. Not all ideas are created equal, but it is better to present them than miss the chance to present the one that could have made a real difference.

    President Glick will stand up and take the heat for the decisions made today and in the future. That goes with the job, and he has always stepped up to the responsibility. I will tell you that in my view that is not fair. He has always asked for more control over the budget. I don’t know when or if the state will grant that control. In the meantime, we can offer him our support and counsel. There have been and will be times where we disagree, but if ever there were a time for collaboration and a willingness to do so, this is the time and these are the people.

    In addition to this email, I will post this letter on the Faculty Senate blog. There you can enter comments, ask question, and make suggestions. You can also contact your unit’s senator or me directly.

    Bill Follette
    Chair, Faculty Senate 2008-2009